Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The 'previously unpublished' versus the 'piece that is becoming popular' question is a big issue for me. This is something poets and publishers need to actively discuss because I believe that a wrong choice here can diminish the chance that a poem which has attracted some public interest will ever achieve the distribution and therefore exposure it would have experienced under the older print media system (which had its own flaws, let me hasten to add).

Much of the current electronic publication activity is, at best, counter-productive for the success of poetry in general (we need readers who are recreational and not just other poets). The small presses are struggling with minimal interest on the part of the consuming public and therefore are in perpetual financial difficulties. Many of them react to this situation so conservatively and narrowly that, believing they are serving their own best interests, they further limit the possible interest of the larger consuming public that poets and publishers used to enjoy in the past.

People (poets and non-poets) like to have their current favorite works available to read multiple times. Furthermore, they like the reassurance that others are just as excited about those works as they are. The more places in which their favorite poems show up, the more they feel as if their personal preference is justified. They like the critical interest generated by popular poems because they better learn how to understand them by reading what scholars are saying about their favorites. These issues are key ones to those who do not already possess educated specific background in poetry and poetry writing. The perilous inaccessibility of some modern poetry which demands deep technical understanding and considerable intellectual aesthetic attention is an understandable putt-off to people who already have no clue as to why MFA poets write the way they do.

I can’t think of a process more alien to this than our current small press activity. Are the current trends for publication in them actually endangering the growth of a real group of public readership (which would really be in the best interest of them specifically and modern poetry in general)?